has been at crisis levels for several years, but only recently have the Island
nations, affected by what amounts to a plague, put that stamp on the problem.
Island Nations dependent on tourist dollars, to include the Gulf of Mexico
coastal towns and cities, have been hit with beaches of
decomposing sargassum, smelling of rotten eggs, attracting flies, causing ecological
mayhem and potential health hazards.
Hardly alluring for holiday makers, as they book their hotels in a formerly paradise
With an efficient method of harvesting the
floating seaweed, there is potential to turn a nuisance into opportunity: Organic fertilizers are produced for the cultivation of horticulture crops like
kharif, rabi, zaid, food crops, and on plantations.
Sargassum has a high content of nitrogen and other important nutrients, which can be used to fertilize fields if done properly. Various species of sargassum have potassium chloride; they are used for making fertilizers in different countries like US, Japan, South India, France, and England. In South India,
seaweeds used as manures for plantations of coconut. They are also used for producing various
other organic vegetable and fruits.
Seaweed fertilisers are organic plant feeds containing extracts of seaweed sustainably derived from the ocean. Ascophyllum nodosum is a variety particularly renowned for its ability to boost overall plant health.
Containing beneficial nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, nitrogen and
more, seaweed fertilisers are most commonly used by gardeners who wish to avoid animal-derived or chemical fertilisers, whilst cultivating the long-term benefits of organic gardening.
Seaweed fertilisers can come in liquid, powdered or granular form. However, liquid seaweed fertilisers tend to be the most popular. This is because in most cases, liquid fertilisers deliver quicker results in comparison to solid. That’s because solid fertilisers first need to break down and become soluble for plants to take them in, while liquid fertilisers are readily consumable.
All types of plants can benefit from seaweed fertilisers. Containing complex carbs and vital minerals, seaweed extract delivers valuable nutrients needed to grow and thrive.
Seaweed fertilisers have the broadest range of benefits to plants beyond plant nutrition. They also promote bacterial activity in soil mediums. Known to improve root nutrient intake. Along with having the ability to improve resistance to disease, pests and abiotic plant stress.
Managed effectively, it may be possible to reduce the negative impact of
sargassum and even benefit from this environmental nuisance.
Fertilisers are most commonly made up of three parts — Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) in varying amounts depending on the crop. Nitrogen in particular is manufactured by using large quantities of oil and gas.
Among other nutrients, seaweed contains nitrogen. Seaweed is composed of up to 1.2 percent nitrogen, which it delivers to plant roots when used as a fertilizer. Nitrogen is essential for the leafy growth of plants. University studies show plants often become larger when given seaweed fertilizer, notes the National Gardening Association. Seaweed also contains potassium, which helps plants grow more vigorously.
Seaweed fertilizer increases corn crop yields, according to research published in 2013 at the University of Rhode Island. Seaweed fertilizers also increase the production of a variety of crops, including potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, apples, okra and oranges, notes the National Gardening Association. It also helps make grapes sweeter and gladiolus flowers larger. These improvements are likely because seaweed contains phosphorous, which is is known for helping with healthy fruit growth.
Seaweed contains phosphorous, which helps plants develop healthy and strong root systems. Seaweed also improves soil texture, greatly improving drainage and aeration. Plants that grow in soils with good drainage are less likely to have issues with root rot or other diseases caused by excess moisture. To get these benefits from seaweed, add seaweed to your compost pile or incorporate some seaweed into the soil.
You can use seaweed as a mulch around the base of plants, advises University of Florida IFAS Extension. Mulches help the soil retain moisture, so plants do not dry out as quickly during hot and dry weather. Mulches also help the soil maintain a more consistent temperature, which works well in both hot and cold climates. A seaweed mulch will also break down and help plant growth by adding nutrients to the soil.
Fertilisers usually have their nitrogen, phosphate and potassium levels expressed as 'NPK' values. Nitrogen promotes green leafy foliage; phosphate promotes strong root systems and potash promotes fruit and flower production and general plant health.
Fertiliser manufacturers may legitimately include some inert material like clay or sand into their products in order to act as a carrier to ensure that the correct levels of nutrient are present in that particular compound.
DISRUPTION OF TRADITIONAL FERTILIZER SUPPLIES - FOOD SECURITY
Sanctions on trade with Russia could result in another crisis — a lack of fertiliser.
Russia and Belarus are major producers of fertilisers, with as much as 25% of Europe’s supply of key ingredients comes from Russia.
With the backlash to its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin’s trade and industry ministry recommended earlier this month that the country’s fertiliser producers temporarily halt all exports.
A cut to the supply of fertilisers, without any backup supply, is sure to hike up costs for farmers and increase the risk of crop failure in Europe, raising the possibility of food prices rocketing.
Sadly, and although this has been a predictable scenario on the cards for
many years. No contingency plan has been developed, by any administration.
They are behind the curve, in a situation that demands advance preparations,
much as with climate change.
NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
While 2020 was relatively mild in terms of sargassum volumes, and a global pandemic
became the overarching worry, 2018 was record breaking in terms of sargassum
volumes reaching Caribbean shores and 2019 was also significant.
Floating sargassum should not be construed as negative in and of itself – it is beneficial at sea, mainly as a unique pelagic habitat.
However, the mass stranding of sargassum on coastlines has significant negative
impacts (biophysical and socio-economic), particularly on coastal communities and
livelihoods, public health, tourism and fisheries. This issue therefore represents an
emerging hazard for a region that is already subject to numerous hazards. Indeed,
various countries in the Caribbean have declared national states of emergency with
respect to sargassum influxes (Desrochers et al. 2020).
The issue is however not confined to the Caribbean
Sea, but it extends across the Tropical Atlantic, including equatorial Brazil as well as coastal West Africa from Sierra Leone through the Gulf of Guinea. Sargassum influxes are very much a multi-regional transboundary issue, demanding coordination and collaboration within and across impacted regions.
A secondary, avoidable negative impact of the influxes relates to the use of heavy machinery to remove massive Sargassum landings, which impacts beach habitats and tend to worsen the environmental harm. The use of heavy machinery causes compaction of beaches and kills organisms that live in the sand, such as ghost crabs and other sea creatures that keep a beach healthy by creating hundreds of holes that keep the beach ventilated. Driving with heavy equipment will not only crush them, but also kills any potential sea
turtle nests. Another impact is the removal of vast quantities of sand, resulting in unintentional sand mining, and ends up affecting the entire beach ecosystem.
Sargassum influxes negatively impact human well-being, activities, and livelihoods as well as major sectors of Caribbean Economies. Key sectors impacted include: coastal living and livelihoods, marine transport/ navigation, public health, fisheries and tourism. These impacts are inter-related, with many stemming from one of the key drivers of biophysical impacts – the decay of the sargassum biomass.
The production of hydrogen sulphide negatively impacts
air quality, results in very unpleasant odours, and prolonged exposure is unhealthy, especially for persons with underlying respiratory conditions. This is detrimental for coastal residents and beach users, whether local or visitors.
Beach users who live elsewhere have the option to avoid impacted locations, while residents may be unable to avoid prolonged exposure.
Large quantities of sargassum also spoil the aesthetic appeal of Caribbean beaches, and inhibit access to nearshore waters. Both issues affect residents, local beach users and tourists, while the latter particularly impacts those whose livelihoods rely on the sea, such as fishers who may need to access the water to access their equipment and/or livelihood.
DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY
When stranded in coastal areas, the sargassum itself dies, and many of the negative impacts originate with its decay. Given the scale and extent of the negative impacts these influx events may be characterized as a recurring hazard. The unprecedented scale of the Sargassum influxes also led to declaration of emergency conditions in several Caribbean countries e.g. Tobago in 2015, Barbados in 2018, and Mexico in 2019 (Chavez et al. 2020).
CLEANING DRONE - As seen above, SeaVax is not suitable for harvesting
sargassum in voluminous quantities. But the concept, or the equivalent, may be adapted
(or specialliy developed) for the
task. You'd still need autonomous fleet control, satellite comms and ocean
current geodata, solar assistance and a
capacious holding tank. But, the harvesting mechanics are different, as is
the pickup head and transfer arrangements. Also assuming 24 hour operations, and factory ships to
treat the recovered asset, for distribution across the globe. Then there is
carbon sequestration. But who would pay for that? Nobody in power - that's for
sure. It's all about the money for them- and they want a free lunch!
It would take a fleet of 300 specially adapted SeaVax
machines, operating at a speed of one load per hour, to deal with 22 million
tons of biological material. From our experience where we asked for funding to clean the ocean of plastic,
it will be a massive uphill struggle - with fruitless lobbying efforts - to
match the non-progress at Climate
Conferences (FLOPS). It will take a working lifetime, unless, the problem
becomes so great, that government react as if they were at war. And it is a
war. Make no mistake. It's a struggle for the survival of our great grand
children. We cannot stop our children suffering, because of corruption and
irresponsible fossil fuel companies. We are too late for that, but with more
Great Thunberg's, we might save the human race.
The sparkle on
the newly brown tinged horizon is that sargassum can be a cash crop. Even so, the
sums being bandied about don't come close to managing this crisis. What they
need is a miracle, dealing with the root cause, which is warming
of the oceans from climate
change. Sadly, the cure for rising
sea temperates is a million miles away, with present G20
policy stagnation - that stinks - like the hydrogen sulfide from rotting
ISLANDS BY POPULATION
1 Cuba 11,252,999
2 Haiti 11,263,077
Republic 10,766,998 (Hispaniola)
Rico (US) 3,508,000
5 Jamaica 2,729,000
and Tobago 1,357,000
7 Guadeloupe (France)
8 Martinique (France)
9 Bahamas 379,000
10 Barbados 283,000
12 Curaçao (Netherlands)
13 Aruba (Netherlands)
Vincent and the Grenadines 110,000
States Virgin Islands 105,000
16 Grenada 104,000
and Barbuda 89,000
18 Dominica 71,000
Islands (UK) 59,000
Kitts and Nevis 46,000
Maarten (Netherlands) 39,000
and Caicos Islands (UK) 37,000
Martin (France) 36,000
Virgin Islands (UK) 31,000
26 Anguilla (UK)
Barthélemy (France) 10,000
28 Montserrat (UK)
29 Tortuga 25,936
30 Roatán 110,000
might revise their policies, to most urgently curb global
warming, hence ocean temperature rises that are causing the sargassum
crisis. The is the root cause of the problem. Cleaning up the excess from the
oceans and seas, is retrospective handling. That, unfortunately, it seems we
will be lumbered with for at least 50 years hence.